A look back: Packers played a part in USA unity

To paraphrase and old song, a nation turned its lonely eyes to Green Bay, Wis. on Sept. 24, 2001. Lambeau Field was the site of the first Monday Night Football broadcast after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on our nation.<p>

Athletics and entertainment had become insignificant in the wake of last September's horrific events. But when it was time to start picking up the pieces sports played its role, if only as a forum for displays of patriotism and remembrance, as well as a symbol that our way of life goes on.

The Packers schedule had eerie parallels weaving through September. They were scheduled to play the New York Giants at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Sept. 16, with a mere handful of days separating the day of the attacks and the day they were to arrive in New York. When play resumed, the Packers played host to another team impacted by the tragedy perhaps more heavily than others – the Washington Redskins.

When the time was appropriate to return to the playing field, the Packers, their fans and the city of Green Bay handled the responsibility of playing host with class. Before the game, Packer linebacker Chris Gizzi, an Air Force graduate and reservist, led the team onto the field proudly waving a huge American flag. Next came more than 150 police and firefighters from Northeastern Wisconsin, carrying a flag, shaped like the continental U.S., which covered much of the field. Martina McBride sang the national anthem.

While the on-field events honoring our nation were impressive and appropriate, the real proof of Packer fans' emotion was in the stands. Fans came with flags, with signs, with their colors and hearts on their sleeves. They showed their respect for the pain of the visiting players by greeting them with a standing ovation.

The final score – Packers 37, Redskins 0 – was only a side note that day and undoubtedly some reflection of Washington's circumstances.

It won't be the score that we'll remember. What Packer fans can take from that Monday night is this: Although nothing on a field of play could change or help what happened, when images of Green Bay and Lambeau Field were beamed across the nation and even the world, Packer fans showed their true colors: Green and gold and red, white and blue.

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